Dogs have been a part of my life for as long I can remember. My parents brought a dog into their marriage even before they brought children and, to me, that seems like a logical move. For our entire married life my husband and I have brought our dog, then dogs, then single dog again on vacation with us to the beach. Some of my friends express envy and others express shock and a little bit of horror that my dogs are such intimate players in my life. As I write on this sleepless night, there are two dogs in my bedroom here at the beach. The very old, Bubba, is sleeping on his own blanket on top of the rug at the foot of the bed. He snores like an old man in a Looney Tunes cartoon and dreams, twitching like a young man in a bar. He is gentle and obeys just as most Labradors do. The other dog, a little Jack Russell/Chihuahua (we think) with no top front teeth, is sleeping at the foot of the bed under the covers warming my husband’s feet. She is borrowed from the neighbors so that she too can chase waves in the sand. And honestly, there is nothing more heart lifting than watching two dogs play together, running in circles, spinning around on their backs like overenthusiastic clocks in the sand. Passersby stop to comment, scratch an ear, laugh and introduce themselves. People will easily do that with a dog present even if they wouldn’t do it in the presence of only people. I remember when I lived in New York in the 1980s, a company existed that rented dogs by the hour to people for walks in the park. Usually, young men were the clients because…well…no young woman can resist stopping to introduce herself to the dog, and in a setting that is full of daylight, most men will not have the courage to introduce themselves to a strange young lady. I guess this was a precursor to match.com. A dog can be the conduit for an introduction and immediate clarification of common interests. That is what the dog would do for them. A small percentage of my friends think I am crazy to indulge my dogs to the extent that I do, but that is OK. That is their prerogative, but it makes me sad for them because that means that they have never known deep down the unyielding loyalty and love that a dog will hand over no matter what. Over the years, first as a child in a family, then as a young single woman in a big city, and now as a just-above-middle-aged married woman transitioning to the next chapter in life, my dogs have stuck by my side. My dogs have seen me behave badly. They have watched me treat others without respect and they have watched me treat myself without respect. They have witnessed my sadness, my selfishness, my fatigue and my joy. They have watched me ignore them. They have seen me try on and discard millions of outfits and attitudes. They have comforted me in times of grief and illness. They have sensed my fears and licked my hand because that is what they can do. No matter what I have tossed their way, they have always forgiven me and slept by my side. There was one exception with a Jack Russell who used to cop an attitude if I traveled without him for any given time, but eventually, even he succumbed to his natural, innate instincts for loyalty, forgiveness and love. Fortunately, my husband possesses the same weakness for canines. More than once I have entered a room to see him petting a dog and softly whispering into its velvety ear. When I ask him what he is saying to them, his response that it is between them and that I wouldn’t understand it because he is speaking Canneenish. It is their own private language. Funny. I am glad they have their own language, because nothing brings peace into ones soul like the love for and from a dog. So as I write this in the middle of the night, I sit in the quiet listening to the waves and whispering a small prayer of thanks for the dogs I have loved. For Buddy Boy, Bud, Poochie, Pepper, Gigi, Scootise, Reba, Deacon, Thunder, Bubba, Rock and Elly. This is my own prayer, in Caneenish, because nothing brings the gift of joy to a heart like the love of a dog.